Part 1: Salvation Past, How To Be Saved

Part 1: Salvation Past, How To Be Saved

 

One of the classic Christmas movies that some of us watch is A Christmas Carol. You remember that in this story a man named Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, as well as by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. By the end of the story, Scrooge is no longer a scrooge. Because of taking a different look at his past, present, and future, Scrooge changes his attitude and his life. I hope that by looking at your salvation past, present, and future, you too will change to be more like that of Jesus.

Let me begin with the obvious question. Do you have a salvation past? Is there a point and time in your past where Jesus saved you? If not, then after reading this article perhaps you will believe in Jesus and be saved. In John 3, there is a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus on how to be saved. Here are four beliefs from their conversation that will help you to be saved.

  1. In order to be saved, I must believe that Jesus came from God.

John 3:1-2 says this. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” John 3:1-2 (NIV)

This man Nicodemus is the same one that is mentioned later in John who helps to prepare the body of Jesus for burial. As a Jewish leader and Pharisee, Nicodemus says, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.” Nicodemus was confident that Jesus came from God. His confidence was based upon the teaching of Jesus and the miracles Jesus performed. His confidence led him to seek out Jesus. The Bible teaches us that Jesus came from God. So what do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus came from God? If order to be saved, you must believe that Jesus came from God.

  1. In order to be saved, I must believe that Jesus is God’s Son.

In John 3:16, Jesus says this. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

This verse is foundational to our understanding of God, his love for us, and what Jesus has done for us. God gave the ultimate sacrifice, his only Son, out of his love for us. God did this so that Jesus could pay the price for punishment against sin. The Bible teaches us that Jesus is God’s Son. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son? In order to be saved, you must believe that Jesus is God’s Son.

  1. In order to be saved, I must believe that I am guilty before God.

In John 3:18, Jesus says this. “People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18 (NCV)

John 3:16 above states that we will not perish if we believe. So why are we perishing to begin with? The reason we are perishing is that we are guilty. We are guilty of sinning against God, breaking his commands, and not keeping his instructions. Even if we only sinned one time in our life, we are guilty. Every human is guilty before God. If we refuse to believe in Jesus, we remain guilty. Our refusal to believe in Jesus brings God’s judgment against us. Do you believe that you are guilty before God? If you don’t believe that you are guilty before God, then believing in Jesus will not make sense to you. I encourage you to accept the truth that we all are guilty before God. This belief causes us to seek out help in Jesus. In order to be saved, you must believe that you are guilty before God.

  1. In order to be saved, I must believe that Jesus died for my sin.

As Jesus was talking with Nicodemus, he gave Nicodemus an illustration from history. In John 3:14, Jesus says this. “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so I, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on a pole.” John 3:14 (NLT)

This refers to the story of Moses leading the Hebrew people through the wilderness. At one time, God sent a plague of poisonous snakes to punish the Hebrews for their rebellious attitude. But God also gave a rescue from the poisonous snakebites. The rescue was for Moses to make a bronze snake and place it up on a pole. Then anyone bitten by a snake could go look up at the bronze snake, and believe that God would heal them.

Jesus used this story to say that like the snake on a pole, he too would be placed on a cross and die there. Later, Jesus was placed on a cross and he died. Nicodemus along with Joseph took his body down from the cross and buried him. Three days after his death, Jesus came back to life. If we believe in Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the grave, then we will be healed of our guilt and sin.

Do you believe that Jesus died for your sin? Do you believe that he arose from the dead? In order to be saved, you must believe that Jesus died for your sin.

These are the beliefs we must agree to in order to be saved. And here are three benefits of being saved.

  1. I am rescued from my guilt and sin.

“God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 (NCV)

  1. I become a child of God.

“Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God.” John 3:6 (CEV)

  1. I have eternal life.

“Everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life.” John 3:15 (CEV)

My invitation to you is this. Will you be saved by believing in Jesus? If you don’t have a salvation past, then I invite you today to believe in Jesus. Will you believe in Jesus?

Next week, we will look at Salvation Present.

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Walking Through Difficult Times With Jesus Part 3: Walking Through Death With Jesus

Walking Through Difficult Times With Jesus Part 3: Walking Through Death With Jesus

April 15th is tax day. There is a proverb that goes like this; “There are two things that are certain in life, death and taxes.” Someone gave me a new proverb recently: “These tax forms will be the death of me.” Our pay day for taxes is April 15th. But when is our pay day for death? Do you know when you will die or how you will die? We can’t answer these questions. But are you afraid of death or how you may die? Jesus has already walked through death and came out victorious on the other side of death; therefore, he can help us walk through death as well. Because of what Jesus did, we no longer have to fear death. Here are three ideas about death we no longer have to fear.

1. We no longer have to fear the pain of death. Death by crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment in Jesus’ day. So the Gospels don’t offer much explanation about how it was done. Mark simply says, “They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him.” Mark 15:22-24 (NIV)

Different articles I have read give this description. The arms would be stretched out and a nail placed into the wrists. The nail or spike would crush the large sensorimotor nerve which would produce bolts of fiery pain in both arms. The feet also would be nailed to the cross. The weight of the body pulling down on the outstretched arms would fix the intercostals muscles in an inhalation state and hinder exhalation. In order to exhale, the person on the cross would lift the body by pushing up with the feet and flexing the elbows. The movement placed more weight on the feet producing a searing pain. The flexing of the elbows would also produce the fiery pain in the arms. The movement of the body along the wooden cross would scrape upon the open flesh and muscle tissue. Each breath would become agonizing, tiring, and eventually lead to asphyxia. Sometimes, the legs were broken to ensure a quicker death.

Crucifixion was used to cause the greatest amount of pain to the criminal before the inevitable death. Jesus suffered the most painful death anyone could ever suffer. He gave of himself to endure this painful death for each of us. The soldiers did not have to break his legs. Jesus gave up his life willingly. Therefore, he knows how to comfort us if we should encounter a painful death. So we can let go of our fear of the pain of death.

2. We no longer have to fear the humiliation of death. While on the cross, Jesus suffered the humiliation of being stripped of his clothing, mocked as a king, and insulted for his promises. Mark describes it this way. “Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” Mark 15:24-32 (NIV)

Ironically, Jesus was the temple being torn down that would rise again in three days. Had Jesus come down from the cross to save himself, he could not have saved anyone else. In order to save us from the judgment and penalty of sin, he willingly stayed on the cross, even through this humiliation.

If you have a fear of humiliation in death, then I ask you to look at the cross today and see Jesus as one who has already been there. He suffered in complete humiliation in his death. That doesn’t mean that we will escape humiliation in our death, but it does mean that Jesus will be there to walk with us through that experience.

3. We no longer have to fear the loneliness of death. Mark describes Jesus’ death in this way. “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’–which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he’s calling Elijah.’ One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” Mark 15:33-37 (NIV)

This is a difficult passage to understand. Even the people there were uncertain what Jesus was saying. It’s obvious he was speaking in Aramaic, and it is obvious to us now that he was quoting from Psalm 22:1. But why did Jesus say this with such a loud cry? After studying this passage and looking at many different thoughts, I have come to the conclusion that Jesus was suffering the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of being God-forsaken. On the cross, Jesus who had no sin took upon himself the sins of the entire world. Therefore, God as Father separated himself from God as Son. Jesus not only suffered the physical pain of being tortured to death, but also he suffered the emotional and spiritual pain in his soul of being alone, apart from his Father. Jesus was given no comfort, no help from God, and no strength from the Holy Spirit. He died alone, without the Father. Because Jesus suffered in death without God’s help, no one else will ever have to suffer in death without God. No one has to go through the loneliness that Jesus went through. No one ever again has to suffer without God’s help, God’s strength, or God’s comfort. Sadly, many people choose to suffer without God because they refuse to believe in what Jesus accomplished for them.

Perhaps you have a fear of dying in loneliness. You can let go of that fear today by taking hold of the hand of Jesus. Believe in Jesus as your rescuer from sin and from the fear of death. Call upon him right now and he will come into your life to save your from your sin. I encourage you to let go of your fear of dying a lonely death; instead, take hold of Jesus who has already died alone so that you don’t have to.

Rather than fear death, walk through it with Jesus.  

 

Walking Through Difficult Times With Jesus Part 2: Walking Through Pain With Jesus

Walking Through Difficult Times With Jesus Part 2: Walking Through Pain With Jesus

 

Somewhere around 1200 BC, we as humans came up with a rite of passage known as firewalking or walking barefoot across hot coals. This rite of passage was to test a person’s strength and courage. The last time I went to the beach during the summer, I burned my feet just walking on the sand. Yes, I do have tender feet. So I do not understand why anyone would want to walk through hot coals or intentionally cause pain. However, Jesus did choose to walk through pain for you and for me. Here are three types of pain Jesus suffered for us.

1.Jesus suffered the emotional pain of false accusations.

“Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate. ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” Mark 15:1-5 (NIV)

Jesus had been on trial all night before this Jewish council called the Sanhedrin. Many false accusations were brought against Jesus. The only charge against Jesus that they could agree on was blasphemy. This Jewish council condemned Jesus to death on blasphemy. However, the Sanhedrin had to get permission from Pilate, the Roman Governor, in order to carry out a death sentence. And the Jewish charge of blasphemy would not be enough for the Roman Governor to give a death sentence. So, this council came up with a political charge against Jesus—he claims to be a king. This would be a charge of treason against Caesar. So when they bring Jesus before Pilate, the governor asks Jesus directly, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said yes, but his kingship was a spiritual one, not a political one. He was no threat to Pilate or Caesar.

2. Jesus suffered the physical pain of beatings.

“Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” Mark 15:15 (NIV)

Pilate becomes a crowd pleaser here to keep the peace. He lets Barabbas go free and then gives the order for Jesus to be beaten and nailed to a cross. The beating was with a leather whip that had sharp pieces of bone tied along the leather straps. A person’s clothing was taken off, and then the hands were bound together and tied to a post. The beating could be done by two soldiers, alternating back and forth from either side of the criminal. As the whip came across the back and wrapping around the chest, the sharp bones would tear the flesh and muscle tissue off causing severe pain and blood loss. This beating was intended to weaken the person and hasten the death on a cross. Many would often die from the beating.

 3. Jesus suffered the spiritual pain of mocking.

“The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:16-20 (NIV)

The beating Jesus suffered had weakened him physically. Yet, the soldiers decided to have some fun at his expense. They mocked him as a king. They had no idea he was the King of kings and Lord of lords. They had no idea he was King over the entire universe.

I cannot begin to understand the amount of pain Jesus suffered. And he did it for you and me. Therefore, when you and I are in pain, we can walk with Jesus. He has endured more pain than we could possibly endure. Here are three specific behaviors we can display because of Jesus walking with us through pain.

1. When in pain, walk with Jesus by remaining faithful to him.

“So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.” Hebrews 12:3 (CEV)

If we are being persecuted, if we are being hurt physically, emotionally, or spiritually, we are to keep our focus on Jesus. He has already endured the insults, the beatings, and the false accusations. He has paved that path for us. There is no reason for us to be discouraged or to give up. Jesus is with us, and we can remain faithful no matter what the pain or the source of the pain.

2. When in pain, walk with Jesus by refusing to fear people.

“Don’t be afraid of people. They can kill you, but they cannot harm your soul. Instead, you should fear God who can destroy both your body and your soul in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (CEV)

Jesus encourages us that no one can harm our soul when we belong to him. Others can persecute us for our faith and yes even kill us, but they cannot harm our soul. Our soul is safe with Jesus. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are safe in God’s arms. Rather than fear people, we are to fear God. Why are we to fear God? Because God does have the power to judge people destroy them in hell. So what does it mean to fear God? Proverbs 8:13 (NIV) says, “To fear the LORD is to hate evil.” So fearing God is not to be afraid of him, but to hate what he hates. God hates evil and sin. Fearing God is to hate what he hates.

3. When in pain, walk with Jesus by trusting God’s judgment.

“He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:23 (NLT)

Jesus is God. He could have sent flames to burn away the Roman soldiers. He could have called for angels to rescue him from the pain. He could have opened the earth to swallow up the Jewish leaders. Instead, he was ready to give of his life for ours, and he did not retaliate. If Jesus had retaliated, if Jesus had called for a rescue from his pain, then you and I would not be here today. Because of what Jesus did, you and I can trust God’s judgment today. God will judge all those who persecute Christians and cause us pain.

Pain occurs in our life in a variety of forms; sickness, disease, crime and violence, verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, natural disasters, car accidents, and persecution for our faith. As far as I am concerned, no one will ever suffer more pain than Jesus did. He did that for us, and it was our sin that caused his pain. Today, Jesus is no longer in pain; instead, he knows how to take your hand and walk you through any and every pain of life. Will you take his hand and let him lead you. When in pain, walk with Jesus.

Walking Through Difficult Times With Jesus Part 1: Walking Through Betrayal with Jesus

Walking Through Difficult Times With Jesus Part 1: Walking Through Betrayal with Jesus

In the fall of 2013, the ABC network created and aired a new television drama entitled Betrayal. In the spring of the 2014, ABC canceled the show after only one season. In other words, Betrayal was betrayed. You would think that as common as betrayal is that a television drama about betrayal would have lasted more than one season. Betrayal happens to all of us, and it happened to Jesus.

Here are three harsh truths about betrayal that we learn from Jesus’ experience.

1. Betrayal comes from friends. Only friends can betray us. Here is what happened to Jesus. “Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.” Mark 14:43-47 (NIV)

Judas was a disciple and friend of Jesus. However, Jesus was ready for this betrayal and arrest, and he was not going to fight against it. Even though it came from a friend, Jesus was not surprised, shocked, or frightened by the betrayal. He had predicted this would happen. He knew Judas would do it. And he prepared for it through prayer.

2. Betrayal is concealed in darkness. Betrayal is ugly, evil, and dark. This betrayal of Judas towards Jesus happened in the physical darkness of night, but it was also a dark spiritual behavior. Luke tells it this way. “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour–when darkness reigns.’” Luke 22:52-53 (NIV)

Jesus’ question points specifically to the darkness of their behavior. This mob was afraid of a riot from the larger Jewish community. Jesus had a great following and if they had tried to arrest him in daylight while he was at the Temple, the people would have started a riot. By coming at night with swords and clubs, they demonstrated their cowardice, their evil intent, and their fear of Jesus.

3. Betrayal causes others to desert us. There is often a snowball effect to betrayal. When one friend betrays us, others like to jump on the bandwagon. Let’s see what happened to Jesus. “Then everyone deserted him and fled.” Mark 14:50 (NIV)

Jesus had prepared his disciples for this moment and told them it would happen. Only a few hours earlier they joined in with Peter and stated, “I will never disown you.” Mark 14:31 (NIV) Just as Jesus had predicted and the scriptures had prophesied, they all deserted him.

So what are we to do when we are betrayed? Here are three ideas.

1. When betrayed, rely on the presence of Jesus. In Hebrews, we find this promise. “The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us.” Hebrews 13:5 (CEV)

Unlike English, the Greek language often uses more than one negative in a sentence. In this promise as it is written in Greek, there are a total of five negatives. There are two negatives associated with the word leave and three negatives associated with the word desert. So we could translate it this way; “The Lord has promised that he will not never leave us nor not never desert us.” It ain’t proper English, but it emphasizes the reality that Jesus will always be with us and never desert us. He will walk with you through any and every betrayal you encounter. When your closest friend betrays you and others friends desert you, Jesus will not leave you alone. Rely on his presence.

2. When betrayed, rely on the comfort of Jesus. Here’s another promise in 2 Corinthians. “We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 (CEV)

This teaches us the truth that as followers of Jesus, we will share in the sufferings of Jesus—which includes betrayal. However, we also share in the comfort of Jesus. Since Jesus has already walked through betrayal, then he knows exactly the comfort we need. When you encounter the darkness and evil of betrayal, rely on the comfort of Jesus.

3. When betrayed, rely on the friendship of Jesus. Here’s a wonderful truth from Jesus. “I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” John 15:15 (MSG)

Even before they betrayed him, Jesus said “I call you friends.” Jesus was entrusting to his disciples the very things of God the Father. At first, they betrayed this trust; but after the resurrection and after Pentecost the disciples took hold of this trust of friendship and conquered the world with it. Even though betrayal comes from friends, Jesus is the only friend who will never betray you. He will always be your friend. Rely on Jesus as your closest friend.

When you are betrayed, walk with Jesus.

How Is Your Worship?

How Is Your Worship?

What is worship and why is it so important? Biblically speaking, worship is the way in which we express love, honor, and glory to God. There are many different ways to worship God. We can worship Him privately and publically. We can worship Him in quietness or with shouts of joy. We can worship Him with prayer or with song. Even the Bible gives us a variety of methods for worship of God. But why is worship of God so important? Jesus answered that question by emphasizing the greatest commandment. One place we find it is in Matthew 22.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38 NIV) So the reason worship of God is so important is because Jesus emphasized loving God as the greatest command. Worship of God is our most important purpose as individual Christians and as a church.

And what is the purpose of worship? The purpose of worship is not to worship the personality of the pastor or music leader; it is not to worship a style of music; and it is not to worship tradition or even a specific song. The purpose of worship is to worship God and God alone. The purpose of worship is to express love, honor, and glory to God.

As a pastor, I take seriously my responsibility to worship God privately and publically. I also believe that worship of God is to be orderly as 1 Corinthians 14 instructs. While teaching about worship, Paul said, “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NIV) So what should the order of my worship be? Is there a biblical pattern or order? When we read through the Psalms, we can find patterns of worship in King David’s song lyrics.

One that I have used over the years is Psalm 95:1-7. The pattern in this psalm is first a Call to Worship God. It begins with, “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1 NIV) Most of the time, we need someone to call us to worship. We need someone to draw our attention and focus to God. Even in my daily private quiet time, I begin by reading scriptures of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit calling me to pray and worship.

Next in the pattern of this psalm is Praise to God. David says, “For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:3 NIV) So after being called to worship God, we are to praise Him for who He is or what He has done.

The third part in the pattern of this psalm is Intimacy with God. David says, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6 NIV) Here we can see a change in posture or attitude. We move from praising God to bowing before Him. So there is shouting in praise and there is quiet intimacy before God. Both patterns or methods of worship should be used.

Finally, there is a Response to God in the pattern of this psalm. David says, “For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:7 NIV) As we worship God, there is to be a response to God for all that we are hearing from Him and learning from Him. The response may be a confession of sin, a new revelation to praise God for, or a new commitment in obedience.

This pattern of worship in Psalm 95 has worked in my planning and participation of worship for years. It doesn’t matter what style of music we use; this pattern fits all styles.

I encourage you in your private and public worship of God to make sure you have a biblical pattern to follow. Make sure that you understand the purpose of worship and why worship is so important.

How To Trust God’s Sovereignty

How To Trust God’s Sovereignty

When you look out at our world, do you sense that something is wrong? Do you wonder if God’s power and control have taken a vacation? Do you get worried when God is not present when and where you want him to be? What about when God doesn’t show up in all of his power and glory as you have asked him to do? How are we to trust the omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God when he doesn’t appear to be present in all of his power? I will attempt to answer that question by looking at Psalm 139. I want to share with you three ways to trust God’s sovereignty.

1. In order to trust God’s sovereignty, we must reflect on God’s knowledge of us.

Psalm 139:1-6 (NIV) states, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” This part of the psalm describes God’s omniscience and specifically his knowledge about us. God has made a close investigation of our being; therefore, he knows everything about us and nothing is concealed from him. The Hebrew word translated “discern” means to sift out. It refers to that ancient farming method of throwing the wheat into the air to sift out the chaff, thus leaving only the good wheat. So God has closely investigated our life and has sifted the chaff out of our life. God examines us, discerns us, judges us, knows us, goes before us, follows us, and still chooses to place his loving and protective hand upon us. Therefore, you can trust God’s sovereignty over your life because God knows everything about you and still chooses to love you.

2. In order to trust God’s sovereignty, we must rest in God’s presence with us.

Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV) states, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” This part of the psalm describes God’s omnipresence and specifically his presence with us. David is not asking this question about fleeing from God because he wants to escape God’s presence; instead, he is asking it to emphasize the impossibility of escaping from God’s presence. David mentions these extremes of height and depth, east and west, dark and light, to emphasize that God’s presence is everywhere.  There is nowhere we can go to avoid the presence of God. Therefore, you can trust God’s sovereignty over your life because God’s presence is with you.

3. In order to trust God’s sovereignty, we must remember God’s power to create us.

Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV) states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” This part of the psalm describes God’s omnipotence and specifically his power to create us. David remembers that God created him in the womb. The words “knit together” and “woven together” give us the picture of a person weaving a basket or a carpet with many colors. So David envisions God as a master weaver putting us together in the womb. The Hebrew word translated “wonderfully” means to distinguish or to separate. It is the idea that humans are distinguished and separate from all other works of creation. David also describes God as having a book in which our life is designed and fully thought out. Even when our body was unformed, just an embryo in the womb, God’s vison for us was already set in place. So yes, you can trust God’s sovereignty over your life because he created you in the womb.

This psalm of David teaches us that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. God is sovereign. It is not a matter of trusting our circumstances or our own perspective; instead, it is a matter of trusting God in the face of our circumstances. Trust God’s sovereignty over your life.

Be Encouraged! Part 4, How To Deal With Discouragement

Be Encouraged! Part 4, How To Deal With Discouragement

 

Discouragement knocks on our door in a variety of ways almost every day. We get discouraged when we don’t get enough sleep or enough to eat, or when our favorite sports team loses, or when we don’t have enough money to pay for something, or when Wal-Mart no longer carries our favorite item. Maybe you are discouraged today because of the 2016 presidential campaign occurring in our nation this year. Discouragement happens all the time. So how are we to handle all this discouragement? Some of us deal with discouragement by ignoring it. Some of us deal with it by fighting against it. Some of us deal with it by caving in under it, which creates more discouragement. And there are some of us who look for that quick fix and quick way out of discouragement. Thankfully, the Bible gives us some great instruction for dealing with discouragement. Psalm 77 is one scripture that helps us. Let me share three ideas from Psalm 77 that will help you deal with discouragement.

First of all, cry to God for help. Psalm 77:1-4 (TLB) states, “I cry to the Lord; I call and call to him. Oh, that he would listen. I am in deep trouble and I need his help so much. All night long I pray, lifting my hands to heaven, pleading. There can be no joy for me until he acts. I think of God and moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray!” In this psalm, Asaph is the author. He is listed in the Bible as one of the leaders of worship in the Tabernacle. He was from the tribe of Levi, making him a Levite and worship leader. Even as a worship leader, he was discouraged, troubled, and distressed. The specifics of his discouragement are not given. Yet, we can get a clear picture of his physical and emotional state from his words here. He is crying out to God. Over and over he cries. He is wondering if God is even listening. He holds out his hands to God all night long in prayer. He knows that nothing will change until God does something. He knows that God is his only hope. The more he thinks about his situation, the less sleep he gets. His situation is so overwhelming that he no longer has any words to say to God. Asaph is sleepless, speechless, and joyless. He is distressed and depressed. However, he is crying out to God. When you are discouraged, make sure that you cry out to God. God is the only one who really understands you and knows your pain.

Second, ask God the tough questions. Psalm 77:5-10 (NLT) states, “I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? And I said, ‘This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.’” These are some strong words of doubt and despair from a worship leader. Asaph can remember when things used to be better. He can remember being joyful. But all of that has come to an end. He can easily see the difference between his joyful past and discouraging present. So he begins to question the sovereignty of God. Has God rejected me forever? Where is God’s kindness? Where is God’s love? Can God no longer fulfill his promises? Where is God’s grace? Where is God’s compassion? It feels as though God has turned his hand against me. Asaph was so discouraged and depressed that he doubted some of God’s basic characteristics. However, I believe God is big enough to handle our tough questions about His sovereignty and character. In fact, I believe God welcomes our doubts, fears, and tough questions. For then and only then do we come to a deeper faith in God and His sovereignty. So go ahead and ask God those tough questions of life during your seasons of discouragement.

Third, remember who God is and what He has done. Psalm 77:11-15 (NLT) states, “But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.” After pouring out his heart to God and asking God those tough questions, Asaph finally remembers who God really is and what He has done. Asaph recalls God’s actions. He remembers them. He meditates on them. And then he breaks out into praise, “O God, your ways are holy. You are the God of great wonders.” The reason Asaph can remember the powerful actions of God is because they were written down by his ancestors, and the stories of God were told to each generation. He, too, was in the process of writing down God’s wonderful deeds. So when you are discouraged, take the time to remember who God really is and what He has done for you. The Bible is the best resource we have for teaching us who God really is. And we also have our own prayer journals. You do have one, don’t you? If not, start keeping a prayer journal right now. Make sure to write down each day your prayers and God’s answers to your prayers. Ten years from now, you can look in your prayer journal and remember who God is and what He has done for you.

When discouraged, cry out to God, ask God the tough questions, and remember who He really is. Be encouraged! And remember, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)